Everything and the kitchen sink.

Plumbing is a bit like childbirth. It is pretty horrific while you are going through it, but once it is over you forget how bad it was. You bask in the glory of your new sink and faucet, with a profound sense of satisfaction, love and delight. You forget how challenging the process was to get it there until right before you are about to do it again, and then you remember. By that time it is too late, you are in it, and there is only one way out.

This week started well, I began work on my transformation of the upstairs bathroom, and I picked up the new counter top for our bathroom downstairs. It was while I was collecting said counter top that I noticed a stainless steel kitchen sink leaning up against a skip/dumpster outside the counter top place.

 Exciting!  You see our existing kitchen sink was disgusting.

The enamel was gone on the bottom, and no amount of scrubbing would get it clean again. When the beloved cooked a curry with a liberal amount of tumeric the other week, the bottom became a tasty shade of yellow. It was fluorescent at first, but settled into this nasty brown stain after a considerable amount of elbow action on my part. Maybe I should have stuck with the yellow.


 Which brings me to the faucet.

Existing faucet. Not exactly pretty.

It leaked like a sieve out of its side.

Not exactly functional either

Oh dear. Every time I used it, I lived in fear of a catastrophic faucet failure, plus we couldn’t keep anything that minded getting wet in the cabinet underneath.

Clearly things needed to change in the kitchen sink department.

I have mentioned our 50 cent remodelling budget before, and so I have been scanning Craigslist for weeks looking for a replacement sink. There are any amount of white enamel sinks on Craigslist, but there was no way on the planet I would replace our existing sink with another white one. They are such a pain to keep clean, and the enamel goes on them and … well why would you do that to yourself?

I know America has a love affair with white enamel sinks, I guess it is for their old timey feel. Personally, though, give me stainless steel every time. Its shiny, it cleans up beautifully and it will take anything you can throw at it. One of my beloved’s fabulous curries included.

Given the number of white enamel sinks on Craigslist, clearly America is waking up to their drawbacks as well. The stainless steel sinks on Craigslist sell in the blink of an eye, the white ones sit there for weeks before they disappear.

Having missed out on several sinks by not being obsessive and quick enough, you can imagine my delight when I found this one sitting there waiting for me.

I immediately whipped my trusty tape measure out of my bag and determined that the sink would fit in our existing sink space, gave the sink a once over to check there were no dents or anything nasty, and then hot-tailed it inside to ask the guy if he minded if I took it.

Because dumpster diving etiquette demands that you ask first. I’ve never known anyone to say no, but it is simply good manners to make the request.

The guy was happy for me to take it. He said ‘You have got a real bargain there’.

Umm, yeah, it was FREE! You can’t get a better bargain than that. Seriously.

Here it is after I got it home:

sink in my studio

Not only was it a bargain, even better it was a deep one-bowl sink. One of the other things I hated about our existing sink was the garbage disposal was attached to the really shallow small sink, which just doesn’t make sense to me. If you are rinsing crusty stuff off baking pans then surely it is better to have the garbage disposal in the big sink.

We had a wonderful weekend the other week staying with our friends W and J at Lake Tahoe, and I developed an extreme case of sink envy. They had a deep one-bowl sink, with the garbage disposal in the bottom, soap dispensers, and fabulous faucets and everything.

I came home after that weekend, refreshed and relaxed, and looked at our revolting stupid sink and garbage disposal attached to the wrong side, and its leaky faucet and sighed.

But sometimes the universe gives you what you wish for. And as an extra-added bonus occasionally it is something you are actually glad you requested.

I brought my free sink home, gained the beloved’s approval (he liked it for itself and not just because it was free), and stowed it carefully in my studio.

Now all I needed was a faucet.  On a budget of almost nothing. Back to Craigslist.

My dream faucet was one of those high arc ones; a simple contemporary design, that evoked a cool laboratory-esque style. Unfortunately these were w-a-y out of my price range. A long way out of my price range. They may as well have been on Mars.

The kind of faucet I lusted after. Image from National Builder Supply

Or so I thought. And here is a bargain tip for you. When manufacturers update their designs, and decide to stop making a particular style, they sell their leftover discontinued stock very cheaply.

And so it was that I came to be the proud owner of my dream high arc faucet, with pull out spray and all its attachments for $50. For a seriously high end German Hansgrohe faucet that a year ago would have cost me $400.  Cray-zeee. Sometimes you can play consumerism to your advantage.

I had my faucet, and I had my sink. And as with the vanity sink the other week, they sat there in my studio singing their siren installation song.

 Oh, I thought. I learned so much from installing the vanity. Putting this sink in should be a snap! Besides, I said to myself, our kitchen faucet could go at any moment. I really should get it out before it does.

You know what happens next. The plumbing equation is applied. The plumbing equation tells you the amount of time it will actually take to do a plumbing job.

 It works like this: Let (a) be the amount of time you think the job will take.  (a) x 10 = the real life time it will take.  So I thought it would take me maybe a couple of hours, and it ended up taking me 20.

I stopped taking photos really early on. Because it was that bad, and when the going gets tough, the camera stays in the camera bag.

Suffice to say it involved 20 hours of my life, about 4 hours of my neighbor’s life, a lot of swearing and ewwy drain water, lying on my back in a cupboard, plumber’s putty, caulk, teflon tape, adaptor fittings, internet troubleshooting research and trips to the hardware store.

 The 4 hours of my neighbor’s life came about because the old sink was so heavy I couldn’t lift it by myself, so I ducked over to ask if he could help me get it out. He spontaneously stayed and assited me to cut through the tile on my counter top when it became clear that the new sink wouldn’t fit in the old sink’s hole. Fantastic, awesome, and I owe him major neighborly favors as a result. I am hoping some of my plum muffins will act as a small token of my profound appreciation.

I am sure sometimes replacing sinks and faucets is as easy as they make it look on the DIY network. And if you are in a relatively new house with standard fittings it probably is. But when you are dealing with 60 year old plumbing, and ancient stop valves that are different sizes, well, shall we just say things can get more than a little interesting.

Plumbing is my idea of hell. And having done a couple of jobs around the house, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for how much plumbers charge. They deserve every cent. And when I am rich and famous, I will gladly pay them to do my plumbing for me.

In the meantime I just have to suck it up and get on with it.

Anyway, after a Herculanean plumbing ordeal, the new kitchen sink and faucet are now in. And they look beautiful, plus they work perfectly.

I think the sense of satisfaction I feel when I look at this is partly because of how much better it looks, and partly reflects the difficulty of the installation battle.

The new sink and faucet also sit beautifully with a DIY project undertaken by the beloved. Anyone who knows him will by now be gasping with incredulity.

To them I hold up my hand and say ‘enough’!  And admit I nearly fainted in shock at the time. The beloved is famous for his utter lack of anything that might remotely be known as DIY skills.

Mind you, it was electrical work. I will get down and dirty with the plumbing (although I draw the line at anything to do with toilets), but electrical stuff, no way. Terrifies me. The beloved, though, has an affinity with electronics and electrical stuff in general.

And it was him who installed new lighting in the kitchen not long after we moved in; directly after I moved the kitchen cabinets he was bumping his head on.

Here is what was there before:

Lighting before

Pretty diabolical in terms of trying to see what he was doing in the kitchen. And this is what he replaced it with:

new kitchen lights

New sink with new lights. Perfect match!

Cool, huh? Now anything electrical is his department.

So after I put the sink in, I was standing there admiring how great they looked, and feeling deeply relieved to have scraped through another plumbing task unscathed when I my eyes fell on the dreadful venetian blind we have in the kitchen.

Venetian blinds in the kitchen

One of the very few things I dislike about the house is the fact that the kitchen looks straight out onto our street.

view out kitchen window

Our street has little traffic in terms of cars, but because it is quiet, a lot of people walk along it. And as much as I don’t like looking directly out onto our cars and the street, I also don’t like passing pedestrians to have a window on our life.

So we keep the venetians mostly closed most of the time. Which cuts down on light, and makes what is a tiny weeny space seem even smaller. And I loathe venetian blinds. Especially cheap nasty damaged ones.

Ever since before we moved in I have wanted to put some privacy film on the window, but balked at the extreme cost. And then, on one of my favorite websites, Design*Sponge, I discovered this very clever trick:

DIY window project from Design*Sponge

You can use regular everyday contact – the stuff you used to cover your school books – to create an etched-glass effect. It is cheap, easy to apply and peels off readily, with no lasting damage. Great if you are renting, or want a temporary fix like I did.

It just so happened I had some clear contact knocking around, so this fix cost me a total of nothing.

Now, I debated doing something fancy with this like cutting it into cool patterns, but the kitchen is small and crammed with enough stuff without adding another layer of things to look at. So, in the end I went with something simple.

First I took down the venetions:

Removing venetians

 Oh, that is better already.

Then I had to remove some leftover wallpaper that was underneath.

Remember this? Seems like eons ago since it covered the entire kitchen:

I measured and cut out the rectangular pieces of contact:

Cleaned the window thoroughly:


And applied the contact rectangles to the window. First peel off a small amount at the top:

Peel off a small amount of backing paper and apply to the window

Rub back and forth with a cloth as you peel away the backing, it mostly goes on easily and without bubbles:

Rub back and forth with a cloth as you slowly and evenly peel off the rest of the backing paper

 Any bubbles you do get can be gently removed with rubbing. If they are really persistent, you can pierce them with a pin, and then rub them.

repeat for each window panel

And there you have it! Now I can show you the new kitchen sink and faucet in all its glory.

But first a little reminder of what the kitchen looked like originally:

The kitchen in its original state

And here it is now.

 This week our kitchen took a quantum leap. And is so much the better for it.

And now it is back to the upstairs bathroom for me. Unless something else comes along to distract me …


10 responses to “Everything and the kitchen sink.

  1. You are so awesome, Clare! I love the new sink!!

    We used the contact paper trick in our old house because the window above our bathtub was a regular window (duh!) and who wants curtains or blinds above the tub to get splashed on, etc? Granted it never occurred to me to put a SHOWER curtain up there, but live and learn. I liked the frosted contact paper.

    • Thank you Andy. We are totally loving the new sink, too! I never knew that about using contact, but I think it is really cool, and a great solution for us for now!

  2. You. Totally. Rock!!!

  3. Wow, Clare! I am in awe of your DIY skills , not to mention your excellent narrative skills – I was there handing you the spanner!

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